The Heatstroke Line

The Heatstroke Line Book Cover

The Heatstroke Line – Climate Change Science Fiction Novel

The Heatstroke Line is a novel that shows what climate change will do to the United States.  It is intended as a warning.   Many Americans are willing to deny the reality of climate change because they think that it will only affect tropical countries and oceanic islands that are far away from us.   The Heatstroke Line depicts a United States that with its coastal cities flooded and its remaining land sweltering under debilitating heat.  It has broken into smaller units that are in conflict with each other and it is dominated by more northerly nations, such as Canada, that now have temperate climates.

There are already a number of “cli-fi” novels that deal with global warming.  But most of these belong within the category of post-apocalyptic science fiction.  They use a disaster — nuclear war, epidemic or ecological disaster — to wipe away the complexities or modern civilization and tell an adventure story.  The Heatstroke Line is different.  It shows an imaginable future, not very distant from the present, when there are still modern houses, cars, governments, schools and political conflicts.  The purpose is to bring home to Americans the devastating effects that climate change might have on our nation.

The Heatstroke Line is a real story — relatively short, filled with action and written in simple, easy to read prose.  It does not preach and it does not try to advance scientific arguments.  Its goal is to make the consequences of climate change real and immediate.   It is intended to motivate people who believe that climate change is real to take action, and to induce those who deny climate change to re-think their position.

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I wrote The Heatstroke Line out of a sense of frustration.  I’ve spent most of my professional life studying government, and so I’ve dealt with what it can do right and how it can go wrong.  I think the current failure to deal seriously with climate change is one of the worst governmental failures I’ve experienced in my lifetime.  It is hard for me to believe that responsible government leaders wouldn’t take the issue seriously, given the extent of the threat.

The immediate motivation to write the book came from a conversation with a colleague, someone who specializes in environmental law and felt the same sense of frustration that I did.  It occurred to me that the reason people allow our government leaders to ignore such a severe threat is that its consequences are abstract.  The short term effects of climate changes are likely to occur in less developed nations that have tropical climates, weaker health care systems, and less adequate food supplies.  It will be a fairly long time before there are major disruptions in the U.S., but those disruptions will inevitably arrive unless we take action.

No one can predict exactly what form the disruptions caused by climate change will take.  The scenario presented in the book is not implausible, however.   Scientists who study this issue are almost all agreed that sea levels will rise.  I based the extent of the rise depicted in the novel on a well-researched website,    Seven of our ten largest metropolitan areas lie along the coast, at sea level  — New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Miami and Boston.  Only LA has any high ground to which its citizens can retreat.  If the other cities (and many smaller coastal cities) flood repeatedly due to storm surges, their residents will be refugees, seeking shelter in other parts of the country.  Our political system is resilient, but will it really be able to endure a stress of that magnitude?  My guess, as depicted in the novel, is that it won’t.

The Heatstroke Line belongs to a genre called “cli-fi” a term developed by Dan Bloom, who runs a blog about it and has been an important supporter of my efforts. There are already a number novels, some of which can be classified as cli-fi, that depict the world, or the US, in the wake of disaster.  But many of them use disaster — nuclear war, epidemic or ecological collapse– to dispense with the complexities of modern civilization and tell an adventure story.   I do something different in The Heatstroke Line.  The world it predicts is still a recognizable one, with cities, government and the annoying political conflicts that we presently experience.  But our nation has lost its power and its prosperity as a result of the stresses caused by the deterioration of its climate.

This may not happen, but it is a real possibility.  I can’t understand why we would want to take that chance.  Many of the proposals to reduce carbon emissions are things that would make life better even if there were no climate change.  People will save enormous amounts of time and stress if we build mass transit, they will save money if they can monitor their home energy consumption and drive more fuel-efficient cars, they will save even more money, and enjoy greater convenience, if we built “intelligent” homes with small or zero carbon footprints.

The Heatstroke Line is intended to alert people to do the danger we face and encourage them to think about solutions such as these.  But I thought the most effective way to do this was to write an entertaining, readable novel, rather than one filled with long speeches and technical data.  The characters took on a life of their own as I wrote it, and I hope the book works as literature as well as persuasion.


What is global warming?

Global warming is the scientific term given to the gradual increase of the overall temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. It is widely attributed to what’s known as the Greenhouse Effect, through which certain gasses allow light in, but trap heat from escaping, ultimately causing a number of climate changes across the globe.

What is climate change?

The term climate change refers to the gradual increase in average surface temperature on the Earth. Many scientists attribute climate change to human consumption of fossil fuels, which release certain gasses, such as carbon dioxide, into the air. These gasses trap heat within the atmosphere, thus leading to global warming.

What is the difference between global warming and climate change?

While climate change is believed to be directly related to global warming, the two are not interchangeable. Where global warming refers primarily to the increase in the Earth’s average temperature, climate change involves changes to a number of other factors, such as precipitation, wind, length of seasons and the circumstances surrounding certain extreme weather events, such as flooding or droughts.

What are the causes of climate change and global warming?

The overwhelming majority of scientists believe that both global warming and climate change are a result of human consumption and the subsequent emission of certain gasses, particularly carbon dioxide, whether it’s a power plant burning fossil fuels or vehicles burning gasoline for transportation. Other causes of global warming and subsequent climate change include methane emissions, deforestation and increased use of chemical fertilizers.

What are the effects of climate change and global warming?

The effects of climate change and global warming are widespread and diverse. In addition to heating of the Earth’s atmospheric temperature, these phenomena can case a rise in sea levels; an increase in size, intensity and duration of extreme weather events; crop failures; and even the extinction of certain species.

What will climate change and global warming do to people and the earth in 30 years? In 50 years? In 100 years?

Over time, the effects of climate change and global warming will become more significant. Unless changes are made, such as the replacement of fossil fuels with more renewable resources, the average temperature in the atmosphere will continue to rise. This will cause further reaching affects in the future, including the disappearance of forests, decreased water supply, negative impact on agriculture and other food sources and the disruption of entire ecosystems. Over time, the warmer it gets, the more severe the impact will become.

What are the politics behind climate change and global warming?

The politics behind climate change and global warming generally involve a difference in opinion in relation to the causes and severity of these atmospheric issues. The more mainstream consensus is that the increase of consumption and subsequent emission of gasses into the atmosphere has led to the onset and continuity of global warming and climate changes. Others feel that the level of alarm is being overstated.